- K-State Research and Extension
- Buffalo grass gains fans in Kansas | The Wichita Eagle
- Issue: April 26, 1999
- Failed Buffalo Grass Planting
- Buffalo Grass Weed Killing Program
- Kikuyu Grass in Buffalo
- Bring the Buffalo Lawn Back to Health
- Legacy® Buffalograss
- Buffalo Grass Lawns
- Gardening How-to Articles
- Planting and Maintaining a Buffalograss Lawn
- Establishing a Buffalograss Lawn
- Preparing the Bed
- Maintaining a Buffalograss Lawn
- Legacy Buffalo Grass Plugs
- Try a Different Lawn with Buffalo Grass
- Buffalo Grass Lawns: Information About The Care Of Buffalo Grass
- What is Buffalo Grass?
- Planting Buffalo Grass
- Care of Buffalo Grass
K-State Research and Extension
Buffalograss is a native prairie grass that can be used for low-maintenance lawns and other turf areas. This low-growing, finely-textured grass requires less mowing, watering and fertilizing than traditional lawn grasses. Although several cultivars can be seeded, others must be started from sod or plugs. Buffalograss is a warm-season grass that spreads by stolons (runners) but not as aggressively as bermudagrass. Once established it survives extreme heat, drought and cold.
Buffalograss grows best in full sun. Stands will be thinner in semi-shady areas. Almost no growth occurs in heavily shaded areas. Establishment is slower on clay and compacted sites, but buffalograss can tolerate these conditions. A well-drained loam soil is ideal for easy establishment and maintenance on an attractive turf.
Buffalograss greens up earlier than bermudagrass, but several weeks later than Kentucky bluegrass or tall fescue. It turns brown after the first fall freeze. The gray-green color and shorter growing season may not be acceptable in every situation, but it requires considerably less maintenance than cool-season turfgrasses.
Buffalograss is a warm-season grass that should be planted in late spring to early summer. When irrigation is not available, plant buffalograss in April and May when there is adequate rainfall for seed germination. However, summer planting (June through July) is preferred for irrigated sites.
Buffalograss seed planted in mid-June germinates in about a week, while early spring plantings may take two to three weeks to germinate. Summer plantings tend to have fewer weeds because of rapid establishment.
Seeding is the most common planting method, although vegetative methods (plugs or sod) can be used. Be sure to purchase properly treated seed. Properly treated seed germinates faster and more uniformly. To void buying seed passed off as treated, check the label for source, method of treatment and other information.
Only 1 to 2 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet are required for a buffalograss lawn. Use the following formula to calculate seed cost:
Seed Cost for Planting Buffalograss:
________ lbs required for ________ grass x ________ seed cost/lb = actual seed cost $________
One and one-half to 2 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet are required to establish a turf in one season. One pound of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn area will establish a solid turf in about 1½ years. Buffalograss does not germinate as a dense stand like fescue. Buffalograss spreads by stolons (runners) and becomes thicker each year. Plant seed ¼ inch deep when irrigated, or up to ½ inch deep if soil moisture is limited. Buffalograss may be drill-seeded or broadcast and worked into till soil.
Buffalograss does not require much mowing. It tolerates a wide range of mowing heights, and because it is naturally low-growing at 4 to 8 inches, it may not have to be mowed at all. Although buffalograss can be kept short, tall grass is more resistant to drought and weeds. It requires little maintenance, other than mowing to remove male pollen flowers above the foliage. While there is not need to mow until weeds outgrow buffalograss, it is recommended that you remove no more than one-third of the foliage at a time. Shorter turf requires more frequent mowing.
Buffalograss does not produce thatch, so there is no need to collect lawn clippings. Leaving them on the lawn returns nutrients to the soil and reduces mowing time by about a third.
The most beneficial time to water buffalograss si June, July and August when drought tends to be most severe. Spring watering benefits weeds more than buffalograss. It is not recommended except under drought conditions. A good soaking at the end of a dry fall helps roots and crown maintain good condition over the winter and encourages more vigorous turf the following spring.
Although buffalograss does not have to be watered as often as other lawns, when it is watered, it should be soaked thoroughly. Frequent, light watering leads to weeds, shallow rooting and other problems. A deep watering every two weeks during hot dry summer weather is sufficient in most areas of the state. In western Kansas, during severe drought, weekly watering helps home lawns maintain an acceptable green color but is not necessary for survival.
Cutting the amount of water or stopping entirely does not harm buffalograss, as long as it has not been on a program of frequent watering. Even after grass goes completely dormant, normal growth resumes quickly with rainfall or irrigation. One to two deep soakings during the summer is enough for low-maintenance areas.
From 0 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per season is recommended for buffalograss, depending on the desired maintenance. one pound is about right for average conditions. Fertilize affects the amount of mowing, watering and weed control. Applying more than 2 pound of nitrogen per season defeats the low-maintenance advantage and may lead to problems. A controlled-release formulation is recommended to prevent excessive growth.
Perform a soil test to determine phosphorus and potassium requirements. If a soil test is not available, use a nitrogen-only fertilizer or one with a small amount of phosphorus and a medium amount of potassium compared to nitrogen. Avoid regular use of a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 13-13-13. too much phosphorus encourages broadleaf weeds and traps essential micronutrients in the soil.
Fertilize buffalograss when it is growing, preferably in June after stolon growth begins. Early fertilizing, watering and mowing encourages weeds and leads to other problems.
Buffalo grass gains fans in Kansas | The Wichita Eagle
“It’s a very low-maintenance grass. It takes a lot less water … and time in mowing,” Hoyle said.
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Oblak says her lawn’s transition to buffalo grass three years ago was not easy. She wanted a mix of it with blue grama grass, because the blue grama fills in immediately, while the buffalo grass takes a bit longer to establish. She found the seed mix, called Native Wonder, online at www.westernwonder.com. That’s before she knew she could find it locally, at such places as Valley Feed & Seed.
Then, while she waited for the grass to get established, the lawn was overrun with weeds. Buffalo is a thin lawn, and weeds take advantage of the open space.
“I weeded myself to death” the first year, Oblak said. “My husband said, ‘Let’s bail.’ ” But the next year, she found that a weed killer had been developed that works on buffalo — Fertilome’s Weed Out with Q.
“The second year I used that, and it was like a dream.” The grass filled in and looked pretty. Then came the heat wave of 2012 coupled with no rain.
“I looked like a genius,” Oblak said. The buffalo-grass mix “was awesome in the drought. Even with my flower garden, my water bill was never over a hundred bucks. I had to water the fescue and the flowers. We did water the buffalo a little bit … When it started to dry out we’d water, and it would turn green again for a couple weeks. It looked gorgeous to the end.”
Buffalo does have its limitations. It must have at least six hours of full sun a day, preferably more. It won’t grow in a very sandy soil. Oblak had some patches of that where the seed didn’t take. She repaired those spots, replanting with buffalo sod she bought at Easton Sod Farms in Derby. “I ripped it up in little pieces, because it spreads. It filled in really nicely.”
And because buffalo is so drought tolerant – you can let it go without water in all except the hottest summers – too much rain or water can harm it. Because of the previous two summers of drought, though, the rain didn’t hurt it this summer, because the ground was so dry, extension agent Rebecca McMahon said.
“This year it was really lush looking … it did fine with all the rain,” Oblak said of her buffalo grass.
Buffalo also can’t handle much fertilizer — only one application a year, in June.
“It doesn’t grow as fast as fescue,” Oblak said. Even with the rainy weather, her husband mowed the buffalo only every other week.
If you water it occasionally, “it’s pretty soft. It’s a nice lawn.”
Issue: April 26, 1999
Failed Buffalo Grass Planting
I have tried several times to plant buffalo grass in my lawn. I removed the old grass, rototilled, and planted the buffalo grass seeds. I watered once every day for two weeks and only a few grass plants grew. What is wrong?
Assuming you used new seeds with high viability and vigor, I would guess that many of the new seedlings died from lack of water. Buffalo grass grows well under low water conditions, but the seed must be kept moist when they are germinating. In discussions with people who have had poor success in establishing buffalo grass lawns, it seems one of the common factors is that the seeds were not kept moist enough during germination. Some people planted when the soil was too cold and then gave up watering too early. Others watered too infrequently and the New Mexico sun and wind dried the seeds. They should be watered several times each day to ensure that they do not dry just as they are germinating. Buffalo grass may take 15 to 21 days, or more to germinate, so watering several times each day is required for this duration or until a good stand of grass is developed. Many people who succeeded with starting a buffalo grass lawn watered frequently, long enough, and also used a straw mulch (or other mulch) to protect the young seedlings as they germinated.
A bluegrass or fescue lawn often seems to establish more rapidly because they are genetically programmed to develop their leaves first since they are native to regions which are more moist than New Mexico. Native grasses develop their root system first to avoid the problems of running out of water as they develop. The leaves of native grasses are slower to develop. However, because native grasses are adapted to dry climates, they tend to spread their germination over a longer period of time. This assures that some will survive and grow. However, this makes it difficult for us to germinate a sufficient number of grass seedlings to form a nice looking lawn. This takes time and water. Often we think we have failed because the grass doesnít seem to be as thick as we wish, so we stop watering and at that time the lawn fails to establish.
During the time of seed germination it is not important to apply large quantities of water, moistening the soil deeply until the seedlings have germinated. So, even though we must irrigate frequently, we need only irrigate briefly. Once the seedlings have begun to develop, however, it is important to increase the depth to which we moisten the soil. Once there is a good stand of grass (enough seeds have germinated to give good coverage of the soil), we can then reduce the frequency of irrigation but continue watering more deeply. Since native grasses develop an extensive root system before devoting much energy into development of the leaves, deeper irrigation must begin earlier with them. Once a good root system develops, then they will thicken up and begin to look like a nice lawn. After about three weeks to a month, buffalo grass may be on a mature lawn watering schedule. That schedule will depend on the type of soil in which it is growing, the weather conditions, and how well the soil was prepared before planting the lawn.
Buffalo Grass Weed Killing Program
Weeds such as Nutgrass can now be treated, being very careful to allow the lawn to rest and recover between different weed treatments.
Kikuyu Grass in Buffalo
Kikuyu invasions in Buffalo grass can be treated any time throughout this entire process. This is because we do not use a weed spray on the Kikuyu which would otherwise go into the soil or onto the rest of the Buffalo turf.
Instead Kikuyu will need to be carefully hand painted with Glyphosate weed killer.
We do this by mixing the Glyphosate in a sturdy and safe container, wearing rubber gloves and dipping our gloved hand into the weed killer and gently wiping over the Kikuyu. Alternatively, we can use a small paint brush to carefully paint the roots and stems of the Kikuyu grass – always being very careful not to spill any Glyphosate onto the lawn. Glyphosate will kill any plant or lawn it comes into contact with.
Bring the Buffalo Lawn Back to Health
These weed treatments will effectively kill the majority of weeds in heavily infested Buffalo lawns. We just need to be careful to space out the treatments to allow the turf enough time to recover between these poisons being applied.
While undertaking these weed treatments, we should also be actively trying to bring the lawn back to full health, which simply involves following good lawn care practices.
A strong healthy Buffalo lawn will naturally fight off many weed types on its own.
We began by fertilising the turf. Be sure to follow-up fertilising every 2 months, using a good quality lawn fertiliser with trace elements.
Mow the lawn regularly, as this promotes green leaf growth, and removes many seeds from many weed types before they have an opportunity to reinfect our lawns.
Check watering, that the lawn is receiving enough water, as well as not too much. Aim to water the lawn deeply and less often. An application of Wetting Agents will also help the lawn soil distribute water throughout its profile far more effectively.
Finally, check and rectify any other factors which may be leading to poor Buffalo lawn health. Reduce cars or other foot traffic to the turf if necessary, remove excess shade, and check and rectify water logging or other issues. Your Buffalo lawn will then soon be back to full health and naturally fighting-off weeds all on its own.
If you want more info, check out our Lawn Care Advice articles and guides to ensure your Buffalo Lawn is in peak health year-round.
In the winter, the growth habit of your lawn will not be as lush and thick as it is during the other seasons, therefore the weeds will find it easier to penetrate. Prevention is always better than cure so do try to keep a bit of extra length on your lawn and ensure the ground doesn’t become compacted, particularly during and after periods of heavy rain. But if a few pesky weeds still manage to creep in, fear not, we have plenty of helpful tips and there are products available to help you clean up your lawn.
The best time to treat your winter weeds is of course during winter! By treating them now, you have more chance of getting rid of them before they germinate and drop their seeds back into your soil ready to attack bigger & better next time. So just how do you treat them? Well that depends on what it is you’re trying to get rid of! Here is a rundown of the most common culprits and the tips and products we’d recommend.
BROAD LEAF WEEDS, CLOVER & BINDI
A selective herbicide such as Sir Walter Buffalo Weed Control or Lawn Lovers Buffalo Weed Control will help to eradicate these weeds in all lawn types including kikuyu & couch, and are safe to use on most varieties of buffalo except the ST varieties. A repeat application may be required for particularly stubborn weeds like clover. If the clover still refuses to budge, try some Kamba-M, that should finish it off.
If you have an invasion of Winter Grass, you’ll definitely want to treat it before it germinates. If you allow Winter Grass to drop its seeds, next winter it will be back, twice as badly as it was the previous year. Best plan of attack is to treat it as soon as it appears. It can be removed very easily by hand as it doesn’t have particularly deep roots and it doesn’t have any runners, growing in simple clumps. But if you’d prefer to spray, you’ll need to use Winter Grass Killer as a general purpose herbicide wont be effective. Amgrow Winter Grass Killer is safe to use on buffalo lawns (including Sir Walter), blue & common couches, but should be avoided on Kikuyu Lawns
The Sedge weed family includes pesky invasive grasses such at Nutgrass & Mulliubimby Couch. To kill off these grasses, you need a selective herbicide such as Amgrow Sedgehammer or Sempra. These chemicals are generally on the expensive side, however you need only a very small quantity to treat the affected area. At the end of the day though, if you don’t treat these weeds they will continue to multiply and infest your whole lawn, so its definitely worth saving your lawn investment in the long run.
This one is a nightmare! Word of advice… never, ever attempt to remove Onion Grass by hand! When you pull on the top of the weed, the tiny bulbs in the soil detach & release resulting in the onion weed multiplying. Since you cannot spray Onion Weed with a selective herbicide, it is much more time consuming to eradicate as this will need to be done by spot weeding. So encouraging it to multiply is the last thing you want to do! To spot weed, mix a solution of Glyphosate & water in a small cup or weed wand. Add a dash of dishwashing liquid which will help break down the waxy coating on the leaf of the plant & allow the poison to penetrate. Paint this solution carefully onto the weed using the weed wand or a small brush, being careful not to get the solution on the surrounding lawn where at all possible, as this is an non-selective herbicide & will kill everything!
Don’t forget, its often the tools of the trade which tend to make a job such as spraying or spot weeding easier. By purchasing a pressure sprayer or spot weeding wand, you immediately take out allot of the frustration of treating the weeds as they’re simple to use, and designed for bigger areas so you’re not spending your time down on your hands & knees or running back & forth to the tap for a refill.
And finally, the most important tip yet. Each product comes with a dilution rate… use it!. ‘double-dosing’ or adding a few extra mls more for good luck can sometimes have the reverse effect and render the product ineffective. So make sure you stick to the correct rates and you should be successful.
All of the products mentioned including a range of pressure sprayers & weed wands are available from the Lawn Store at www.lawnstore.com.au
Available mid July through mid September
Legacy® Buffalograss is a native sod forming grass that uses a lot less water and is ideal for xeric landscapes. A grass native to the plains of Colorado, Legacy® thrives on only 1/4 inch of water per week during the summer heat. Legacy® can reduce your lawn watering up to 75%. A soft textured sage green turf, Legacy® Buffalograss has a slow growth habit which means a lot less mowing. You can have a beautiful manicured lawn with Legacy® or let it go unmowed for a native look. Leed Certified and 2001 winner of the “Green Thumb Award”.
Full Sun to Light Shade
A True Native
A grass native to the plains of Colorado, Legacy® greens up in April and is fully dormant by October. The best grass for xeriscape lawns and gardens.
Uses a Lot Less Water
Legacy® can reduce your lawn watering up to 75% and thrives on only 1/4 inch of water per week during the summer heat. Can go several weeks without watering.
With a slow growth habit, there is no set mowing schedule. For a manicured lawn, mow every two weeks. For a natural look, mow once in the spring and let it go. Legacy® stops growing at 6 inches.
Soft Texture and Color
Legacy® is a sage green color and has soft, narrow blades. This native grass sod forms a modernly dense lawn that handles low to medium traffic.
Buffalo Grass Lawns
Buffalo grass lawns need less water, fertilizer and mowing than Kentucky bluegrass lawns.
Buffalo grass turf goes dormant and turns brown with extended drought and cool fall weather.
Lawns of buffalo grass, although usually started from seed, may be vegetatively planted.
Good soil and close attention to new seedlings can help get a good stand started quickly.
Proper care will help keep buffalo grass lawns attractive through the year.
Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) is a permanent, native, low growing, warm season grayish-green grass. It is an important range and lawn grass in eastern Colorado. This sod-former produces vigorous runners or stolons. In the High Plains, this grass often is found growing as a companion with another native, blue grama.
Buffalo grass can sometimes serve quite satisfactorily as a lawn grass. Before choosing this grass for a lawn, its advantages and disadvantages should be considered.
There are several advantages of using buffalo grass for lawns. It has good drought tolerance and stands up well to wear. Irrigation, if carefully done, can be beneficial in establishing stands and in keeping an attractive and serviceable turf. Improperly done, watering can cause the buffalo grass to be overrun by other grasses and broadleaf weeds. This low growing grass requires little mowing to give it a uniform appearance. Buffalo grass has a low fertility requirement, and it often will maintain good density without supplemental fertilization.
The fact that buffalo grass is a warm-season grass should not be overlooked. It turns brown with fall’s first freezing weather. It greens up with the return of warm weather in the spring. Consequently, it can be brown and unattractive when Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season lawn grasses look best.
Buffalo grass, without supplemental water, will go brown and become dormant during extended summer drought periods. This grass has poor shade tolerance, and it does not do well above 6,000 – 6,500 feet (1828 – 1980 meter) elevations. Because of rather aggressive runners, buffalo grass can require edging along walks, driveways, and shrub and flower beds.
This grass has both male plants with flowers 5 – 20 inches (13 – 51 centimeters) and female plants with burs containing 2 to 4 seeds near the soil. Variability in turf may result from differences in appearance of the male and female plants, growth height, color and density from one plant to another. Those who are accustomed to a Kentucky bluegrass turf may object to walking (particularly barefoot), playing and sitting on buffalo grass turf.
Starting a lawn
Buffalo grass will grow on heavy and compacted soils. However, it is easier to start and keep on good loam soils. When possible, if any construction is to be done, the topsoil should be saved and returned to the lawn area after construction is completed. Heavy soils may be improved by applying a layer of good quality organic matter (peat moss, aged manure or compost) to a depth of 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) over the surface. This should be done before final tilling and seed preparation. Buffalo grass does not have good salt tolerance. If salt problems are common in the area, a soil test can determine potential success of a buffalo grass planting.
Before planting, the soil and soil amendments should be worked well to a depth of 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm). After the final tilling, the soil should be leveled and firmed. Areas that have trenched for utility lines should be soaked and filled until they are level with the surrounding surface.
Buffalo grass lawns usually are started from seed. There are cultivars on the market, such as “Cody”, which have been selected for good green color and thick turf.
The best time to seed buffalo grass lawns is May and June. At that time of year, with a good watering every day, buffalo grass seedlings begin to appear 6 – 10 days after planting. During warmer parts of the year, runners develop and spread is rapid. Seedings made in August or later germinate slowly and grow little before cold weather.
Suggested seeding rates differ greatly. They range from as little as 1 pound up to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet (0.45 to 4.5 kilograms per 90 m). Five pounds (2.3 kg) of a good quality, treated seed appears to be adequate for broadcast seeding for most situations. Buffalo grass seed is treated to improve germination, not to protect the seed against disease. The more seed used the more rapid the ground is covered.
Broadcast seeding followed by raking in the seed is a common practice, but the burs tend to stay on the surface. A more practical approach, using less seed, may be to plant the seed in shallow furrows, spaced 6 – 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) apart and cover it with 1/2 – 2/3 inches (1.3 – 1.7 cm) of soil. A starter fertilization usually will show little benefit on a good topsoil but can be beneficial on poor soils. An application of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet (2 kg per 90 m) of diamminium phosphate (18-46-0) or a commercial lawn starter fertilizer used at the rate recommended on the bag can be used on poor soils.
For best results, a new seeding should be watered to keep the soil moist. Two weeks after seed germination, watering intervals can be lengthened to every 2 to 3 days. Without supplemental watering of buffalo grass, it often takes from 5 to 10 years to get a good ground cover.
Buffalo grass may be started by transplanting a 4-inch (10 cm) or larger sod piece. These plugs should be taken to a depth of 2 to 3 inches (5 – 8 cm). Plugs that are transplanted in the spring from 12 to 24 inches (30.5 – 61 cm) apart – with watering and weed control – can sometimes cover the ground in one season. Buffalo grass sod is seldom laid as a solid cover. The scarcity of sod for home lawn use and the need to cut the sod at least 2 inches (5 cm) deep are problems with sodding. Buffalo grass that is vegetatively transplanted needs to be well watered for several weeks.
Since buffalo grass is normally planted in the spring, new-stand weed competition can be serious. Hand-weeding and frequent mowing at 1 1/2 – 2 inches (4 – 5 cm) can help to keep the weeds controlled, and encourage faster buffalo grass coverage.
Once established, buffalo grass usually will persist without irrigation in eastern Colorado. To keep a better looking turf, and one that will provide a better surface for general use, deep watering every two weeks or so during summer dry spells can be helpful. The soil should be soaked 6 to 8 inches (15 0 20 cm) deep. In especially dry springs, a good watering about the time the buffalo grass is beginning to green can help get the grass off to a good start.
Low growing buffalo grass needs only infrequent mowing. Left unmowed it will get to a height of 4 to 5 inches (10 -18 cm). But, to keep the male flowers down and to get a uniform appearance, mow with a sharp blade, at a height of about one inch (2.5 cm). This will help improve the appearance of the turf. The buffalo grass should be mowed to reduce the height of the grass by no more than 1/3 to 1/2 of its total height. That is, when the turf gets to 1 1/2 to 2 inches (4 – 5 cm) it should be cut back to one inch (2.5 cm). In late spring, mowing may need to be done every two weeks. Later in the season mowing every 3 to 4 weeks probably will be adequate.
Broadleaf weeds, such as bindweed and dandelions, can be quite objectionable in low growing buffalo grass. This is especially true in dormant, brown buffalo grass turf. Used according to recommendations on the label, 2,4-D can effectively control most of the weed problems in buffalo grass turf.
Cool season grasses, such as bluegrass, tall fescue, and quackgrass, can give quite an objectionable blotchy appearance, especially in dormant buffalo grass turf. A uniform-appearing dormant buffalo grass lawn may not be objectionable; whereas, one pockmarked with green may be. A green turf colorant can be used to offset this color difference. Chemicals such as glyphosate (Roundup and Kleen-up) can be used to spot kill objectionable grasses. Remember that herbicides used to kill grass can also kill the buffalo grass once it is green and growing, so treat weedy grasses early while the buffalo grass is dormant. Always read and follow directions on herbicide labels.
J.D. Butler and
Adapted fromColorado State University Extension Service, bulletin no. 7224.
Gardening How-to Articles
Planting and Maintaining a Buffalograss Lawn
By Terrance P. Riordan | April 4, 2012
Buffalograss (Buchloë dactyloides) has prospered on the Great Plains for centuries. This native grass is a sod-forming species and uses water efficiently, having adapted over thousands of years to the periodic and prolonged droughts characteristic of the region. Today, an increasing number of people are using this short, fine-leaved prairie grass as an ecologically sound and energy-efficient alternative to conventional turf. A warm-season grass, it spreads by both seed and stolons (runners), which take root and produce new plants.
Buffalograss is usually dioecious, meaning male and female flowers occur on separate plants. The inflorescences on male plants are one-sided spikelets on stems that rise 3 to 8 inches above the leaves. Female plants produce one or more burrlike inflorescences that remain partially hidden among the leaves near ground level; each burr contains one or more seeds.
The homeowners liked the softness of this buffalograss and blue grama so much they stopped mowing. (Photo: Judith Phillips)
Buffalograss starts growing in early May and begins to go dormant in early fall in the Central Plains. Leaves are blue-green during the growing season, although there is great variation not only in leaf color but also leaf width and internode length (the distance between leaves on the stem). Buffalograss does not tolerate excessive shade and is not well adapted to sandy soils. Once established, it can survive in saturated soils for short periods of time. Its extensive, deep root system and relatively low water use make it highly resistant to drought stress. Monthly irrigation in summer normally will prevent the plant from going dormant. Buffalograss, especially the new cultivars developed for use as a lawn, makes it possible for many Americans, particularly those in the prairie and plains states where it is native, to have high-quality turf that requires very little work and vastly less water and fertilizer than the widely cultivated, nonnative, cool-season turfgrasses. Buffalograss is particularly well suited to the transition zone of the United States. This is the zone where often it is too hot for cool-season turfgrasses and too cold for warm-season species.
Establishing a Buffalograss Lawn
There are three ways to start a buffalograss lawn: with seed, plugs, or sod. Seed of several improved turf-type cultivars is available in bulk. Be sure to specify primed seed, which has been soaked or treated with KNO3, a relatively nontoxic salt, to help soften the seed coat and break dormancy. Plugs are helpful when immediate soil stabilization is important. Using sod, although expensive, will vastly decrease the time required to cover the planted area.
No matter which method you use, it is important to properly prepare the site to get the lawn off to a good start.
Buffalograss Cultivars for the United States
‘118’: Excellent turf performance in the southern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as sod of a female plant.
‘315’: Good turf performance in the northern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as sod or plugs of a female plant.
‘378’: Excellent turf performance in the northern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as sod or plugs of a female plant.
‘609’: Excellent turf performance in the southern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as sod of a female plant.
‘Bison’: Good turf performance in the northern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as a seed mixture of both male and female plants.
‘Cody’: Excellent turf performance in all zones of the U.S. Available only as a seed mixture of both male and female plants.
‘Legacy’ (61): Excellent turf performance in the northern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as sod or plugs of a female plant.
‘Plains’: Good turf performance in the southern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as a seed mixture of both male and female plants.
‘Prairie’: Good turf performance in the southern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as sod of a female plant.
‘Sharp’s Improved’: Good turf performance in the northern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as a seed mixture of both male and female plants.
‘Stampede’: Good turf performance in the southern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as sod of a female plant.
‘Tatanka’: Excellent turf performance in the northern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as a seed mixture of both male and female plants.
‘Texoka’: Good turf performance in the northern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as a seed mixture of both male and female plants.
‘Topgun’: Excellent turf performance in the southern and transition zones of the U.S. Available only as a seed mixture of both male and female plants.
The southern zone includes the southwest quarter of New Mexico, the southern half of Arizona, and the southeastern edge of California south of Death Valley. The southern zone also includes Florida, coastal Alabama and the area south of a line extending from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, west to Ft. Davis, Texas. The transition zone’s southern boundary is that same line, and its northern boundary extends across the country from Washington, D.C., west to Monterey, California. The northern zone includes all of the area north of that line.
Preparing the Bed
If the soil has been compacted by vehicles or extensive foot traffic, rotary till to promote deep rooting. If you are planting seed, work the soil to a gardenlike but firm condition; in other words, the seedbed should be firm enough to walk on without sinking more than 1/2 inch into the soil. This can be accomplished mechanically with a light lawn roller or by irrigating the soil before seeding. If you use plugs or sod, a gardenlike condition is preferable but not as important, provided the plug or sod has good contact with the soil.
Eradicate all vegetation in the planting area by tilling or applying herbicide. Control early-season weeds by tilling before seeding. An application of a nonselective herbicide, such as Roundup, is recommended before establishing plugs. Follow all instructions and restrictions on the label when applying herbicides.
Although adapted to a wide range of soil types, buffalograss is best suited for naturally fertile, clay and loam upland soils. It will establish and grow in areas with eroded soils, and often does well in infertile or poorly drained soils. Apply a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus when seeding to enhance seedling root development and stolon growth. Nitrogen is also important for early growth.
For large areas, use a depth-limiting drill, which plants burrs at a depth of 1/2 inch or less. Use a 1- to 2-inch row spacing. For smaller areas, broadcast seed by hand. Assure proper soil-seed contact by using a harrow or by hand raking, first in one direction and then in a perpendicular direction. Rolling the area before watering is helpful.
Late spring is the optimum time to seed. If you seed at this time, you should have a full stand by September. Seeds will not germinate until soil temperatures reach 60°F. This is usually around May 15 in the central plains, but may differ in your particular climate. It is important to control early-season weeds before spring seeding (see “Preparing the Bed”). Irrigation during germination and throughout the first growing season will greatly increase your chances for success.
For best results, don’t sow buffalograss after August 15; unirrigated fall seedings of buffalograss when soil temperatures are greater than 50°F often fail because young seedlings are susceptible to frost damage and winter drying. Areas that cannot be irrigated can be seeded in the fall or winter, after soil temperatures fall below 50°F.
The amount of seed required depends on many factors. Trials conducted in Nebraska indicate that rates of 1 to 3 pounds of burrs per 1,000 square feet, seeded in early June, produce fully covered stands by mid-September. A good rule of thumb is 2 pounds of burrs per 1,000 square feet.
Plugs should be 2 inches or more in diameter with a minimum depth of 21/2 inches. Spacing can vary, depending upon how quickly you want full coverage, but should be no farther than 24 inches on center. During the first year when the lawn is becoming established, it is important to keep weeds to a minimum. Periodic mowing at a height of 2 to 3 inches will help minimize weed competition.
Plugs are available either prerooted or not prerooted. Prerooted plugs have been harvested from an established field, placed in trays, fertilized, and watered in a greenhouse or under clear plastic for 4 to 8 weeks. For early spring and summer planting, they have been shown to establish more quickly than those that have not been prerooted. Plugs harvested in March, prerooted, and planted in May will, under proper growing conditions, establish an acceptable stand by fall.
Plugs that are not prerooted need 3 to 4 weeks to initiate growth and may not provide complete cover by fall. Newly harvested plugs may “go brown” after planting due to transplant shock. It is possible to minimize this off-color period and ensure good rooting by applying a starter fertilizer at 1 pound phosphorus and 1 pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet at planting time and irrigating while the plugs are becoming established.
Irrigation and fertilization requirements for sod are the same as for a plug planting. Sod, like newly harvested plugs, may exhibit an off-color appearance during the first few weeks after planting.
Selecting Plugs and Sod
When selecting plugs or sod you will have a choice of cultivar and either male or female plants. A single-cultivar lawn will be more uniform than one that includes several varieties. However, as when selecting any turfgrass, it is important to choose a cultivar that is resistant to pests and diseases.
Another important decision is whether to select a cultivar with one or both genders. In unmowed lawns, the male flowers, which generally extend above the leaf blades, are visible, and so some people consider them undesirable. By contrast, female flowers remain close to the ground and are not as visible. To have all-female plants, you must start your lawn with plugs or sod, not seed. If you’re planning on mowing, the choice of using either a female cultivar or a male/female cultivar is moot because the flowerheads will be trimmed off.
After seeding, water lightly (1/4 to 1/2 inch), depending on present soil moisture and natural precipitation. Subsequently, water only to maintain a slightly moist surface and adequate subsoil moisture. This also helps reduce weed competition. With treated seed, seedlings emerge in 10 to 14 days. Water plugs and sod every other day for the first week, and every third day the second week. Water once a week the third through the fifth weeks, if there has been less than 1/4 inch of rainfall since the previous irrigation. Do not let water puddle or run off. Establishment will take longer without watering.
On hot days, light watering (syringing) in the late morning or early afternoon will improve stolon growth and rooting in plants established from all methods. Syringing is a light application of water (1/8 inch or less) to prevent wilt and to cool the turf.
Your greatest challenge in establishing a buffalograss lawn will be weed control. Remove weeds from the bed before planting. Eliminate as quickly as possible any weeds that develop after the buffalograss has been seeded. Weeds taller than buffalograss seedlings should be mowed at a height of 2 to 3 inches. Hand weeding is effective for smaller areas.
In general, buffalograss is relatively free of insect and mite pests. This may be because established buffalograss usually harbors many beneficial insects—big-eyed bugs, syrphid flies, lady beetles, predatory mites, and several species of parasitic wasps—that naturally control pest populations.
The most potentially serious buffalograss pests identified so far are a tiny, grass-infesting mealybug, the buffalograss webworm, and a short-winged species of chinch bug. However, there are no insecticides registered to control these pests on buffalograss. Control them with proper maintenance and cultural practices.
Buffalograss is relatively disease free. Isolated cases of diseases have been reported, but little research has been done in this area. Proper maintenance of buffalograss should reduce the likelihood of disease.
Maintaining a Buffalograss Lawn
After the first year, buffalograss lawns in Nebraska usually can be maintained with no irrigation beyond rain, though the quality of the lawn may be enhanced with some timely irrigation. During especially dry springs, irrigation when the turf begins to green up will insure a vigorous, dense lawn that can outcompete weeds.
Supplemental water is most beneficial in late July through August, the period of active stolon growth. Irrigation at this time helps stolons develop roots at the nodes, thus establishing new plants. Unfortunately, it also promotes weed growth. The lawn’s green color can be somewhat extended in the fall with additional water, before freezing temperatures arrive.
For best results, fertilize between June 15 and 30. Nitrogen levels should not exceed 1 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet per year, depending on the length of the growing season in your area. Buffalograss will provide a good quality turf with up to 1 pound per 1,000 square feet of nitrogen annually.
Because buffalograss is naturally short, no mowing is required. You can mow to a height of 3 to 4 inches to remove the slender male flower stalks that rise above the leaves. This may require regular mowing, since the male flowers are continually produced. Female selections require less mowing.
For a uniform appearance, mow at a height of 21/2 inches at 3- to 4-week intervals in late spring and 2- to 3-week intervals later in the season.
The more you mow, the more supplemental water will be required to maintain a thick, green turf. Minimal mowing and higher cutting heights promote a vigorous root system. Removal of more than one-third of the leaf will reduce root activity and growth, making plants more susceptible to moisture stress near the soil surface. Do not cut the grass by more than one-third its total height at any one mowing.
Terrance P. Riordan Terrance P. Riordan is a professor of horticulture at the University of Nebraska, where he teaches a graduate course in turfgrass management. He received his Ph.D. in agronomy from Purdue University in 1970. In 1997, he received the Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award. His work with buffalograss for the past 15 years has led to the release of eight improved turf-type cultivars.
Legacy Buffalo Grass Plugs
Planting A Lawn With Grass Plugs (Download our Grass Plug Planting Guide – .pdf format)
REMOVE THE OLD LAWN
You can kill or remove the old lawn in several ways:
A) Strip off the old turf grass with a sod cutter and kill off any remnants of lawn around the edges; OR
B) Kill the existing lawn, by spraying it with a one-time application of systemic glyphosate 14 days or longer prior to planting. (While repeated, widespread use of glyphosate can be damaging to the environment, healthy soils are capable of breaking down any residual chemical from a one-time use. Keep kids and pets off the lawn until the herbicide has dried.) or
C) Smother the lawn: If you can wait 6 months or longer, the old lawn can be killed by covering it with alternating layers of corrugated cardboard and compost laid down about 6” deep; or
D) Solarize the lawn by killing it with heat from the sun. This can be done by covering the lawn turf with clear plastic for one to two months during the heat of summer. Be sure and bury the edges of the plastic sheeting and place heavy rocks across the middle to anchor it and hold it down when the wind blows.
Note: Letting the lawn go brown by withholding water will not kill Kentucky Bluegrass.
IMPROVE THE SOIL – Before planting grass plugs into bare soil, it is essential that the soil be enriched with compost and other organic or natural fertilizers to insure that the plugs grow vigorously and cover the area quickly. Proper soil preparation can be done anytime before planting the plugs. However, preparing the soil well in advance of planting insures that the ingredients have begun to breakdown and the soil will have a finer texture. It also allows weeds to sprout and be pulled or rototilled prior to planting. This will greatly reduce the amount of weeding after planting the plugs.
To improve the soil for best results use organic or natural soil amendments listed below. Rototill the soil enriching ingredients into the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.
Planters II trace mineral supplement: Use 2 lbs/100 sq.ft. This natural trace mineral supplement provides essential micro-nutrients and boosts microbial activity in the soil needed to break down compost and natural fertilizers and improve nutrient availability.
Yum Yum Mix: 4 lbs/100 sq. ft. When it comes time to fertilize your soil in preparation for planting we suggest using a gentle, non-chemical based fertilizer. Yum Yum Mix feeds the soil that feeds your lawn. This organic formula adds essential nutrients to the soil and “feeds” the soil’s earthworms and beneficial microbial population to maintain a healthy living soil needed for a vigorous, low-care lawn. Healthy soil means a happy lawn!
Compost: Use at the rate of ½ to 1 cu. yard per 100 sq. ft. (depending on the condition of the soil). Along with Yum Yum Mix, a high quality compost will build and maintain a healthy living soil.
Mycorrhizal Root Inoculant: Lawn grasses will grow more vigorously by having these beneficial mycorrhizal fungi attached to their roots. Mycorrhizal inoculation is essential if your home is in a new subdivision or there has been extensive earthwork, soil removal and compaction from your home construction process.
DO NOT use manure unless you know it has been actively composted to break it down. Old piles of manure (even if stored for many years) have not been composted adequately. Instead, it will begin to compost (break down) after you’ve tilled it into the soil. This causes burning of grass plug roots and induces a serious nitrogen deficiency that will stunt or kill newly planted plugs.
Once the old lawn is gone or you are planting into bare soil, there are two ways to plant the plugs 1) You can plant into bare soil that has been enriched with compost and other natural or organic fertilizers (See above: Improve the Soil) 2) You can plant directly into dead turf that is thoroughly dead using the Drill and Fill Method (see below, section 4). It is NOT recommended that plugs be planted into a live lawn.
PLANTING USING THE “DRILL AND FILL” METHOD- Planting plugs into existing turf areas. This can be a real labor saving method when replacing your existing lawn. Assuming that the lawn was planted into well prepared soil, planting into the dead grass is a proven, labor saving method. This method also greatly reduces the amount of weeds that sprout once the plugs are planted.
a) Make sure the old lawn is dead, both foliage and roots. Choose from the method that works best for you (see section 1 above). Don’t make the mistake of assuming a completely brown patch of Kentucky Blue Grass (or any other turf grass) is dead from lack of water. Many grasses survive drought by going dormant only to “wake up” when water is made available.
b) Preparing the plugs for planting: Before planting the plugs make sure they are well watered but not soggy. Make a few shallow slices into the sides and bottom of the plug’s root ball to break the circling root growth and encourage lateral root growth into the surrounding soil. To speed the transplantation process the plugs should be removed from the plug tray, have their roots sliced and placed into a box or flat in the shade to await transplanting.
c) Measure the grid: Use a string line marked every 6″ or 12″ (with a Magic Marker), stretch it between two stakes to show you where to plant each plug.
d) Use a cordless drill to make the planting holes: Using a cordless drill and a 1 ¼″ diameter wood boring bit, drill 1 inch deep holes on a grid 6″ or 12″ apart, place the plug in the hole and step on it to firm it into the soil. Plant the row and move the stakes to the next row. When done planting the whole area, water thoroughly.
PLANTING INTO BARE SOIL- Prepare the plugs for planting and place your string line (as described above in b & c). Using a hand trowel make a shallow hole, plant the plug and firm it into place. Mulch with clean wheat straw to shade the soil and keep the plugs moist. Water thoroughly after the plugs are planted.
Organic Plant Magic: This all-purpose fertilizer is packed with every essential element required by plants to properly build and maintain themselves, including beneficial microorganisms and microbes. For best success, we suggest using it as a root dip when planting grass plugs.
WATERING – Frequency: Water in newly planted plugs thoroughly so that the soil is wet to a depth of 4-6 inches. The frequency of subsequent irrigation will depend on how quickly the soil dries. Water enough to keep the soil damp but not muddy with standing puddles. First week to 10 days: Water daily in the early evening. Next couple of weeks: As the plugs begin to root-out into the soil and grow, watering can be reduced to every 2nd or 3rd day. Plugs that are taking hold and rooting-out will be noticeably greener and have longer, larger leaf blades than one’s that haven’t. After the first month: If it’s not too hot and dry, your growing plugs will need watering no more than one to two times per week, putting down an inch of water each time. Use several empty coffee cans placed around the newly planted area to measure the amount of water applied. Even xeric native grasses like Buffalo and Grama grass need regular irrigation that first growing season. Once established, the amount of water needed next growing season will be much less!
Watering sloped areas: If you’ve planted on a slope, be sure to mulch the plugs with clean, weed-free straw. Water the soil with a fine spray, just enough that the water is absorbed by the soil and doesn’t run off. Repeat 3 or 4 times at 5 minute intervals until the soil is wet to a depth of several inches. This is only a suggested watering schedule. Anytime the plugs are looking gray-green and the grass blades look thin and folded, they need water. The first couple of times you water, check the depth of the soil moisture after you water by digging into the soil to visually examine how deeply the water as penetrated. You’ll soon learn how much and how often your soil will need watering to keep the plugs moist.
WEEDING – Weeds will sprout quickly in newly planted areas. Weed control is essential so they don’t smother your new plugs. Pull weeds when they’re small.
Hand Weeding: You’ll need to pull weeds until the plugs have grown together for best establishment of your new lawn. When hand weeding, use a couple of wide wood board pieces to stand and kneel on while you weed. This helps to avoid stomping and compressing the soil as you walk around pulling the weeds. Herbicides: It may not be practical to hand weed large, newly planted lawns and the use of broadleaf herbicides may be considered. We recommend using corn gluten meal, an organic, pre-emergent herbicide used to control weeds. Apply in late winter/early spring, just before weed seeds begin to germinate. Herbicide Precautions: If you opt to use chemical herbicides instead, do not apply 2,4-D when daytime temperatures exceed 75° F. Do not use Trimec or other formulations that mix 2,4-D with other herbicides as these can stunt buffalo and blue grama grass plugs. Fertilizing the First Growing Season: It is beneficial to fertilize your plugs that first growing season to make sure they fill in quickly and cover the bare soil. To minimize soil compaction from walking on the young lawn, spray fish emulsion as a foliar feed in the early morning, one time each month with the last application in August.
MAINTENANCE AND EXTENDED CARE for Established, Plug Grown Lawns:
Watering: Once established Buffalo and Blue Grama grass are very drought tolerant, but they may need extra water during the hottest part of the summer to keep them green and actively growing. Turn on the sprinklers to apply approximately an inch of water every two weeks.
Bella’ bluegrass will need more water each month than Buffalo or Grama in western climates. Water ‘Bella’ when it gets a gray-green color and the grass blades are folded and thin. If irrigation is not available and you must depend on natural rainfall, Buffalo and Blue Grama may go brown in extended heat and drought but will green-up when the rains return. These native grasses have deep roots that keep them alive through extended drought.
Fertilizing – Never use “weed-n-feed” chemical fertilizers as they are damaging to soil health
Buffalo grass varieties; Legacy, UC Verde and Prestige need to be fertilized twice annually for best appearance. Apply Yum Yum Mix or other organic/natural fertilizer in late spring and again in early fall.
‘Hachita’ Blue Grama; needs only one application of Yum Yum Mix applied in early fall.
Bella’ bluegrass: Bella doesn’t need much fertilizer to maintain its rich deep green color, however, it does need fertilizer to fight off disease. We recommend applying slow release or organic fertilizer, such as Yum Yum mix, 2 to 4 times per year. In poor soils, also apply Yum Yum Mix in early fall.
A 25 lb. bag of Yum Yum Mix will cover about 600 sq. ft. of lawn.
Weed Control: Buffalo and Blue Grama grasses are warm-season growers, meaning they don’t green up until mid- to late spring (depending on elevation). Corn gluten meal application can prevent weeds from germinating. Weeds are best pulled, dug up with a dandelion fork or spot-sprayed with herbicide in early to mid-spring. At this time of the year, these native grasses are still dormant while the weeds are already green and growing. This makes them easy to find and pull. A thorough weeding in early spring is usually sufficient for the entire year.
Try a Different Lawn with Buffalo Grass
Buffalo Grass makes an attractive lawn alternative.
Would you like a lawn that doesn’t require fertilizer, pesticides, or frequent mowing? Our newest grass selection offers a low-resource alternative to traditional turf grass. Bouteloua dactyloides, commonly called Buffalo Grass, spreads quickly by rhizomes to form a dense carpet. Fine-textured, gray-green to blue-green foliage grows 10-12 inches long but curls and drapes over for a shorter appearance.
Bouteloua dactyloides is a warm-season grass that’s native to Manitoba and Saskatchewan, south through the Central Plains states of the U.S. and down into Mexico. It’s a dominant grass in shortgrass prairie and often forms the understory in taller prairies.
While not widely used in the Southeast, it has performed well for us in central NC. We’ve had a small patch of it in one of our gardens since 2010. In spring of 2018, we installed another planting on the front side of a fenced field. The images below show it at the end of that summer and into winter of 2019. While it forms a dense sod that is competitive, it still requires some weed management by hand pulling.
Buffalo Grass planting from August 2018 to January 2019
Buffalo Grass can be mowed several times per year or left in place for a natural look. If mowing, a minimum height of 2”-3” will help the grass compete with weeds. It may need periodic edging to keep it out of soft pathways or adjacent planting beds. Like warm-season turf grasses, it will turn dormant and brown mid-fall through mid-spring.
Buffalo Grass needs full sun but has low fertility and water requirements. It tolerates heat, drought, and alkaline soils. It is intolerant of heavy moisture and sandy soils. It only needs 1.5” of rain per month to stay green. During periods of prolonged drought, it may go dormant and turn brown. That strategy can help it survive under super-tough conditions. With lower needs for fertilizer, irrigation, and mowing, Buffalo Grass uses fewer resources than traditional, highly managed lawns.
According to the USDA’s plant fact sheet, Buffalo Grass plugs should be planted on 12 to 24-inch centers, depending on how quickly you want to get coverage. The plugs can spread within 8 to 12 weeks after planting.
The common name reflects this grass’s role as forage for buffalo (American bison) that once roamed the Great Plains. As a component of the shortgrass prairie, early settlers in the region used it to construct their sod houses. Then and now, it’s a larval host for green skipper butterflies. The specific epithet, dactyloides, means fingerlike, which refers to the inflorescences.
Buffalo Grass is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. The male flowers are on small, comb-like spikes that hover above the foliage. Female flowers cluster on short stems down in the leaves. We think the male flowers are part of its appeal, but they can be mowed for a look that’s more formal and closer to turf grass.
Ready to Try?
We’re growing Buffalo Grass in a 32-liner plug tray. It outgrows a liner quickly, so we produce this one on request. The average lead time is 10 weeks, but that may vary with the time of year and our production schedule. See our plant profile and contact our sales team for more information.
- We grow several other grasses and sedges that make excellent alternatives to turf grass. They create a low ground cover that does not need regular mowing or fertilizing. Some are more appropriate to shady conditions, while others thrive in full sun. All can be mowed high (3-8”) two to three times a season for a traditional look, or left unmowed for a more natural look. See our list of grasses and sedges for lawn alternatives.
- Researchers at North Carolina State University conducted trials on native grasses as alternatives to turf grasses in out-of-play areas on golf courses. Their study results give an overview of Buffalo Grass performance.
- The USDA has helpful guidelines and more info on establishing plantings of Buffalo Grass. You can download them from the Plants Database.
Field trials with Buffalo Grass show an attractive lawn, but weeds must still be managed.
Buffalo Grass Lawns: Information About The Care Of Buffalo Grass
Buffalo grass is low maintenance and tough as a turf grass. The plant is a perennial native to the Great Plains from Montana to New Mexico. The grass spreads by stolons and was first used as a turf grass in the 1930s. The plant has a history of being expensive and hard to establish but planting buffalo grass from the newer cultivars have minimized these traits. With a few buffalo grass planting tips, you will be on your way to an adaptive and flexible lawn.
What is Buffalo Grass?
Buffalo grass is native to North America. What is buffalo grass? It is the only native grass that is also useful as a lawn grass. Buffalo grass lawns are warm season turf which are drought tolerant with better cold resistance than other warm season grasses. The grass is quite tolerant of a range of conditions and establishes with seed, sod or plugs. As an extra bonus, care of buffalo grass is minimal and mowing is infrequent.
As a wild plant, buffalo grass is an important range and pasture plant used
by native and domestic grazers. It is a warm season grass that goes brown and dormant in fall when cold temperatures arrive and only awakens in spring as the air and soil warm up. Its busiest growing period is between May and September.
The plant forms a fine turf with bluish green color 8 to 10 inches high. The blades are slightly curly and the flowers are both pistillate and staminate. Plants root at internodes on the stolens. Buffalo grass lawns are very adapted to low moisture areas. Newer cultivars are resistant to weeds and require even less watering than the traditional buffalo grass.
Planting Buffalo Grass
The ideal time to sow buffalo grass is in April or May. You may start it from seed or sod. Sod is generally made up of female plants to keep the spiky male seed heads from making an appearance. Seeded lawns will have both male and female plants.
Broadcast seed at the rate of 4 to 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet. With good moisture, this rate will achieve good cover in just a few months. Plugs are planted on 6 to 24 inch centers, 2 ½ inches deep. Sod must be moist before it is rolled out.
A crucial buffalo grass planting tip is to keep any area, whether it is seeded, plugged or sodded, evenly moist as the grass establishes, but avoid sogginess.
Care of Buffalo Grass
This is a low maintenance turf and over babying it will actually cause it to lose vigor. Fertilize in spring with 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Feed the turf again in June or July with the same rate.
Water needs are minimal. The grass needs just a moderate amount of moisture per week. Mow once per week to a height of 2 to 3 inches for a healthy lawn.
Because buffalo grass is not a thick turf, it tends to get weeds. Use a weed and feed at fertilizing time and hand weed when possible to remove competing pest plants.